We tend to think little thoughts about sin. In other words, we tend to think that sin is not such a big deal, as if we were two-year-olds being disarmingly disobedient before our Heavenly Daddy. You know: “Oh, isn’t he cute the way he smiles that impish smile and walks the other way when I tell him to come here?”
But Scripture teaches us something entirely different. Consider R.C. Sproul’s word from his classic work, The Holiness of God:
“Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.”
No, sin isn’t cute, and if anything should lead us to understand sin as “cosmic treason”, Jesus’s teaching in Mark chapter 9 should get us there. In some of his starkest teaching in all the gospels, Jesus says…
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. Mark 9:42 (ESV)
Apparently, you would be better to die a horrible death by drowning than to entice a little child to sin. But wait, what exactly would be worse than drowning, or death in general, for that matter? The answer is clear from the next verse: Hell. The millstone warning in verse 42 makes no sense unless you interpret it with the verses that follow.
And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, Mark 9:43-47 (ESV)
Hear this: Jesus is saying that Hell is a real possibility for people, that real people go there, and that real people are in torment there even as you read this now. And, gracious Savior that He is, Jesus tells us exactly what causes people to go to Hell…sin.
These verses have been misunderstood for 2,000 years, but surely their message is more than clear. It’s certainly not that Jesus wants us to dismember ourselves. It is rather that He wants us to…TAKE SIN SERIOUSLY. He wants us to be careful not to trifle with it…not to think of it as “2-year-old cute.” In fact, for instance, if you have a 2 year old, don’t even think of their sin and disobedience as cute. Obviously, wisdom is needed to discern whether they know right from wrong, but once you are sure they do, their disobedience is no longer cute, any more than yours is. It is cosmic treason, all of it. And all of us need to consider our own sin and the sin of others as dangerous, for sin sends people to everlasting Hell every moment of every day.
We must take sin seriously, but even when we do, our hands and feet will still lead us into sin more times than we would like to admit, so what hope do we have short of dismembering ourselves? Well, of course, the Christian message is that we hope in the One Who did not cut off His hands and feet, but allowed them to be pierced through for us. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus literally took sin, and took it very seriously, so that those of us who trust in Him might never fear its horrible ramifications again.
“Man of Sorrows, what a name, for the Son of God who came, ruined sinners to reclaim…Hallelujah, What a Savior!!!”
Tomorrow, Friday, April 24: Mark 10